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FG Lacks Power To Restrict Withdrawals From Public Accounts Of States – ST Hon (SAN)

Measures being perfected by the Federal Government of Nigeria to stop cash withdrawals from federal, states and local government areas’ bank accounts have been described as “unconstitutional” and “intolerable.”

The Nigerian government has been urged to not push constitutional limits by the move which “kills” federating States by imposing blanket prohibition against cash withdrawals by them.

The Director of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), Modibbo Tukur, had on Monday in Abuja said the Nigerian government “is putting all necessary measures in place to stop cash withdrawal from Federal, States and Local Government accounts.”

The move according to Tukur “had become necessary following the consistent devaluation of the Naira and the introduction of a new Naira Policy, which automatically activates Section 1 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act.”

Reacting to the development, a respected expert in constitutional law, Chief Sabastine Tartenger Hon (SAN), described the moves as “unconstitutional” and “intolerable.”

According to him, the Nigerian Federal Constitution has imbued the federating States with such financial independence that, once the Federal Government allocates money from the Federation purse (which is by the way a commonwealth for all Nigerians) to the State Governments, the former lacks the constitutional vires to breath down orders on the States and the Local Governments on how such money should be spent – as if these latter two are appendages of the former.

“Our constitutional history, beginning with the 1979 Constitution, is intolerable of this. I will establish this with pronouncements of the Supreme Court – the highest of the land.

“Also, in Attorney-General of Lagos State vs. Attorney-General of the Federation (2004) 18 NWLR (Pt. 904) 1, the executive powers of the President under the Nigerian Constitution were tested. In this case, President Olusegun Obasanjo had unilaterally ordered the withholding of allocations to Lagos State over the creation by the latter of additional Local Government Administrative units outside the ones recognised by the Constitution.

“Kutigi, JSC (as he then was – later CJN), in his concurring judgment, held that the President’s action in this case was aimed at “killing” the other tiers of government and that this was “brutal indeed.”

“This dictum by his lordship, Kutigi of blessed memory, applies with full force to the recent attempt to ban States and Local Governments from withdrawing cash from their public accounts – especially if viewed from the background of the fact that the same Central Bank of Nigeria has placed restrictions on the amounts to be withdrawn by individuals and corporate bodies.

“If individuals and corporate bodies who have less security and other public duties to perform are even granted opportunity to withdraw certain amounts of money, why totally place a ban on States and Local Governments that have enormous security and governmental responsibilities to tackle? Clearly, such a policy, if implemented as threatened, will be aimed at “killing” the other tiers of government; and this would be “brutal indeed.

“True, the Federal Government wants to, quite commendably, extinguish corruption and money laundering; but this must be done within constitutional limits. It, indeed, amounts to “killing” the federating States for there to be a blanket prohibition against cash withdrawals by them. It is unheard of! It is intolerable! It is unconstitutional! It should never happen,” he said.



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